DETROIT—Injury news that the Detroit Tigers figured would get better by September got a whole lot worse on Tuesday with word that Anibal Sanchez is facing a setback with his injured right arm.
While throwing on Monday, Sanchez felt pain in his right arm that according to the pitcher, felt like a needle going into muscle. That discomfort was apparently caused by scar tissue. The injury might not be season threatening just yet, but it's serious enough for the team to have that concern now.
During the rest of the night, many including Sanchez himself feared he could be done for the season, but Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus was a bit more bullish on Sanchez's chances of returning following Detroit's 5-2 series opening win against the New York Yankees.
"We really aren't sure what it is," Ausmus said when asked if Sanchez's status had changed. "We're going to get another opinion. By no means has he been written off. This is not something, at this point, that we've considered the end of (Anibal) Sanchez's season. We still think there's a shot he can come back."
Regardless of Sanchez's health now, the Tigers should be careful with their productive pitcher for later. He's got another three years left on his contract, which means that his long-term security is key. Detroit doesn't need another situation playing out with Sanchez as has happened with Justin Verlander.
While that thought probably won't force Dave Dombrowski's hand prior to the waiver deadline on August 31, it's still worth considering. Detroit claimed veteran reliever Chad Qualls from Houston, but if that deal falls through and news on Sanchez worsens or remains unstable, his hand could be forced.
In September, Detroit likely can't depend on a combination of Robbie Ray, Kyle Lobstein, Buck Farmer and Drew VerHagen to pitch them through a pennant race successfully. As good as each have looked at different times, if the Tigers are faced with life without Sanchez and lingering questions about Verlander's arm, it could be a final death blow for their playoff hopes, even with Max Scherzer, David Price and Rick Porcello pitching at an elite level.
Could a veteran starter become Detroit's best answer before Sunday? Someone like Scott Feldman, A.J. Burnett or Bartolo Colon may have to be in a pinch. All, however, are owed significant amounts of money, which complicates matters for the Tigers, who have already made big moves.
As Dombrowski has said, he can't throw money at everything, but he will likely have a choice to make regarding what to throw money at to improve the team's chances of making the playoffs. The Sanchez setback might make the rotation a big focal point, mostly due to Verlander's notable struggles.
In the days ahead, Detroit will have to try and finish a deal for Qualls, decide if they need an extra bat and make a determination on the significance of Sanchez's shoulder trouble. That's a long to do list for the weekend.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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